Image © Rhino Entertainment Co. 2002
(06 July 2002) The first Clannad compilation to include material from the band's entire release history is a 34-track, 2 CD collection entitled A Magical Gathering The Clannad Anthology (Rhino Entertainment Co (USA) R2 78255 DRC 12973, 2002). The compilation, produced by John O'Regan, includes a lushly produced 44-page booklet loaded with many first-time-in-print photos, thumbnails of original album covers, a band history and commentary on each of the tracks. While well known in many territories, the band's popularity rose further on the heels of their sibling Enya's recently found success.
Fronted by their lead vocalist Máire Brennan who also contributes harp to some of the pieces, the band also includes Ciarán Brennan (vocals, guitar, mandolin, bass, double bass, piano, keyboards), Pól Brennan (vocals, guitar, keyboards, flute, whistle, tin whistle, bongos)--who left the band in 1992--Noel Duggan (vocals, guitar, harmonium), Pádraig Duggan (vocals, guitar, manodla, mandolin, harmonica) and--to a limited extent--Eithne [Enya] Brennan (vocals).
Tracks on The Clannad Anthology follow the band's discography and opens with two tracks from Clannad remastered from the original vinyl since the master tapes were destroyed long before the advent of CDs. The vinyl album is very rare and considered by many collectors to be the "holy grail" of Clannad memorabilia. The CD remaster was released in 1997--24 years after the original album was pressed--and the production quality of the tracks on CD is notably different than the remaining tracks on The Anthology as well as balance of the albums in their (CD) discography.
The first disc of The Anthology is comprised primarily of tradional folk-oriented material. Two of the most notable tracks in this portion of the collection are the band's unique treatment of the traditional "Dúlamán" from the album of the same name and the stunning "An Túll" from Fuaim--the one Clannad album where Enya sings backing vocals. While the Clannad arrangements of the traditional is certainly notable, the band's style evolved significantly--into a more progressive Celtic direction, setting the standard of the genre--within their Magical Ring album. The last four tracks of the first disc were selected from this album. " Thíos Fá'n Chósta," "Theme From Harry's Game" and "Newgrange" clearly define the transition.
With the first disc grounded in traditional, the second charts Clannad's course in soundtrack-oriented and progressively-influenced music opening with three tracks from Legend: Music From Robin Of Sherwood, an album viewed by many as a significant step for the band. The lush arrangement of "Ancient Forest" from this collection makes it an album standout. Rich vocal and instrumental arrangements crossing the progressive boundary into new age at times characterise the tracks from Macalla that come next and include the stunning collaboration with U2's Bono and hit entitled "In A Lifetime."
By Sirius the band clearly had moved into a progressive Celtic direction. A blend of traditional instruments, woodwinds and upbeat electric-guitar laden arrangements in "Second Nature" coupled with lovely vocal harmonies clearly illustrates this transition and is further defined in "Something To Believe In" and "Sirius." The style further developed in Anam and Banba with a lush blend of multi-layered vocal harmonies with traditional and modern instrumentation.
After a three-year break following Banba, the band re-emerged with even more dynamic arrangements on Lore, which strived to make Clannad's music even more accessible; "Seanchas" is a stunning example. Their soundtrack style continued to evolve as well and is exemplefied by "Croí Cróga." The band's most recent and award-winning studio album Landmarks shows further use of modern instrumentation and emphasis of electric guitar, powerful bass and keyboard. Multi-layered vocals continue to characterise the sound in "An Gleann" and the upbeat Celtic rocker "A Mhurnín Ó" that conclude the compilation.
Rhino and the album's executive producer have truly captured Clannad's musical development in A Magical Gathering. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the compilation from amazon.com
Certainly an album for the experienced Clannad enthusiast or a newcomer to their material, this album is worth a journey. One that will stay in your CD changer for months, this compilation is a must listen!